Awards Blend: Will The Martian Contend For Oscar's Top Prizes?

There are a few boxes every Oscar contender has to tick off if they hope to contend for the Academy’s top prize. You have to be liked. You have to be respected. And it helps when you are financially successful.

Sir Ridley Scott’s The Martian found itself on the receiving end of all three of those components over the weekend, which is why we’re discussing it in the Awards Blend column today. Scott’s exhilarating adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel banked an impressive $55M – just missing an October box office record set by Oscar contender Gravity back in 2013. Positive reviews certainly helped. The Martian is enjoying a 94% Fresh grade on Rotten Tomatoes, with 209 Fresh reviews.

But is it an "Oscar" movie? The first time I watched Sir Ridley’s sci-fi thriller in Toronto, it felt more like a free-flowing crowd-pleaser, and not quite an awards-contending drama. On a second pass, however, the human drama hit harder, the director’s nimble dance through the science impressed even more, and Matt Damon captivated in what amounts to an impossible role. The Martian actually does feel like a contender at the moment, and the successful weekend – both critically and financially – has prompted me to revise my charts accordingly.

Here, then, is where I think the Oscar contenders sit on October 5:


oscar winner prediction

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The FrontrunnersSpotlightSteve Jobs


The ContendersBridge Of SpiesBrooklynCarolConcussionEx MachinaThe Hateful EightInside OutJoyMad Max: Fury RoadThe MartianThe RevenantRoomTrumbo


The Dark HorsesBeasts of No NationThe Big ShortBlack MassBy The SeaCreedThe Danish GirlThe End Of The TourFreeheldIn The Heart of the SeaLove & MercyStraight Outta ComptonSuffragetteThe Walk


The LongshotsThe 3345 YearsAnomalisaMe and Earl and the Dying GirlOur Brand Is CrisisSicarioStar Wars: The Force AwakensTruth

  Tom McCarthy is an interesting case study. He’s coming off the only real blemish in his nearly-spotless career -- The Cobbler. And yet, he has delivered a masterfully precise drama with Spotlight, which I assume will earn him his first Best Director nomination. Who will join him? There are a number of heavy hitters eager to throw their names into the Best Director race this year, and we’ll start to see their movies in the coming weeks. For now, here’s who I like in the still-developing marathon.


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The FrontrunnerDanny Boyle, Steve JobsTom McCarthy, Spotlight


The ContendersAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The RevenantGeorge Miller, Mad Max: Fury RoadDavid O. Russell, JoyRidley Scott, The MartianSteven Spielberg, Bridge of SpiesRobert Zemeckis, The Walk


The Dark HorsesLenny Abrahamson, RoomRyan Coogler, CreedScott Cooper, Black MassJohn Crowley, BrooklynCary Fukunaga, Beasts of No NationAlex Garland, Ex MachinaF. Gary Gray, Straight Outta ComptonTodd Haynes, CarolTom Hooper, The Danish GirlRon Howard, In the Heart of the SeaAngelina Jolie, By The SeaPeter Landesman, ConcussionJay Roach, TrumboQuentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight


The LongshotsJ.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force AwakensPeter Docter, Inside OutDavid Gordon Green, Our Brand is CrisisAdam McKay, The Big ShortBill Pohlad, Love & MercyJames Ponsoldt, The End of the TourPeter Sollett, Freeheld

  Last season, Best Actor was a ridiculously competitive category, with just as many worthy candidates left on the outside of the category looking in as there was five eventual nominees. This year looks equally impressive, though there are a number of films yet to drop. Is this the year that Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins? Or could Matt Damon’s The Martian performance prove to be the spoiler?


oscar winner prediction

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The FrontrunnersMichael Fassbender, Steve Jobs


The ContendersBryan Cranston, TrumboMatt Damon, The MartianJohnny Depp, Black MassLeonardo DiCaprio, The RevenantTom Hanks, Bridge of SpiesEddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl


The Dark HorsesSteve Carell, The Big ShortBradley Cooper, BurntJohn Cusack, Love & MercyJoseph Gordon-Levitt, The WalkO’Shea Jackson, Straight Outta ComptonMichael B. Jordan, CreedIan McKellen, Mr. HolmesBrad Pitt, By The SeaEdgar Ramirez, JoyWill Smith, Concussion


The LongshotsAntonio Banderas, The 33Michael Caine, YouthRichard Gere, Time Out Of MindJake Gyllenhaal, SouthpawTom Hardy, LegendChris Hemsworth, In The Heart of the Sea

No actress has laid claim to a Frontrunner status in the early stages of the Best Actress race though perennial contender Cate Blanchett is making a case with her much-lauded performance in Todd Haynes’ Carol. More people need to see that movie, and will in the coming weeks. As for the rest of the field, in my humble opinion, it’s beginning to look like this.


oscar winner prediction

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The FrontrunnerNone yet


The ContendersCate Blanchett, CarolBrie Larson, RoomCharlotte Rampling, 45 YearsSaoirse Ronan, Brooklyn


The Dark HorsesSandra Bullock, Our Brand is CrisisMarion Cotillard, MacbethAngelina Jolie, By The SeaJennifer Lawrence, JoyJulianne Moore, FreeheldMaggie Smith, The Lady in the VanCharlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road


The LongshotsCate Blanchett, TruthEmily Blunt, SicarioBlythe Danner, I’ll See You In My DreamsHelen Mirren, Woman in GoldCarey Mulligan, Far From The Madding CrowdCarey Mulligan, SuffragetteAmy Schumer, TrainwreckSarah Silverman, I Smile BackLily Tomlin, Grandma

Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies finally started screening over the weekend, world premiering at the New York Film Festival ahead of its October 16 release. The early buzz swarmed around character actor Mark Rylance, whose portrayal of a captured Soviet is said to steal scenes throughout Spielberg’s sturdy Cold War drama. Expect to hear his name often as this category continues to develop.


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The FrontrunnersMark Ruffalo, Spotlight


The ContendersPaul Dano, Love & MercyMichael Keaton, SpotlightMark Rylance, Bridge of SpiesSeth Rogen, Steve JobsLiev Schreiber, SpotlightJason Segel, The End of the TourJacob Tremblay, Room


The Dark HorsesChristian Bale, The Big ShortJim Broadbent, BrooklynAlbert Brooks, ConcussionBradley Cooper, JoyTom Courtenay, 45 YearsRobert De Niro, JoyBenicio Del Toro, SicarioBruce Dern, The Hateful EightJoel Edgerton, Black MassIdris Elba, Beasts of No NationRyan Gosling, The Big ShortTom Hardy, The RevenantOscar Isaac, Ex MachinaSamuel L. Jackson, The Hateful EightJason Mitchell, Straight Outta ComptonBrad Pitt, The Big ShortKurt Russell, The Hateful EightMichael Shannon, FreeheldMichael Sheen, Far From the Madding CrowdSylvester Stallone, CreedBilly Bob Thornton, Our Brand is Crisis


The LongshotsAlan Alda, Bridge of SpiesJohn Goodman, TrumboHarvey Keitel, YouthSir Ben Kingsley, The WalkRobert Redford, Truth

Will the real Danish Girl, please stand up? Most going in to Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl likely expected to be blown away by Eddie Redmaye’s transformation. (And he is in top form, for sure.) But chatter continues to swirl around the devastating performance by Redmayne’s co-star, Alicia Vikander, who is having an incredible year – and one that, I believe, will be topped off by her first Oscar nomination. Who will join her? Let’s discuss.


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The FrontrunnerAlicia Vikander, The Danish GirlRooney Mara, Carol


The ContendersElizabeth Banks, Love & MercyJane Fonda, YouthJennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful EightRachel McAdams, SpotlightKate Winslet, Jobs


The Dark HorsesJoan Allen, RoomMelanie Laurent, By The SeaMelissas Leo, The Big ShortHelen Mirren, TrumboGugu Mbatha-Raw, ConcussionEllen Page, FreeheldAmy Ryan, Bridge of SpiesMarisa Tomei, The Big ShortJulie Walters, BrooklynKatharine Waterston, Steve Jobs


The LongshotsJessica Chastain, The MartianDakota Johnson, Black MassDiane Ladd, JoyJulianne Nicholson, Black MassTilda Swinton, Trainwreck

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.